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Google+ Profile Suspended

My Google+ profile was suspended on grounds that were not wholly unexpected, but still shocking. I’m likely violating many of their conditions, as I’m 16 (under 18 at time of writing) though when my Google Account was registered, I probably lied and said that I was 30 (At that time, when I was 11, I tended to do that with all services to evade the nonsense COICA on Neopets). I’m not really the victim here (Though I’d like to pretend that I’m pretending that I am so I have an ostensible excuse for narcissism without admitting it by admitting it). I hardly ever share anything on Google+, so I lose nothing except for the ability to make an occasional uninsightful post and the ability to brag about my 3.4k+ followers.

I assume it’s the fault of every social network to obsess over its user base, to define a subset of humanity and designate those as members. To praise individualism, differences and variance yet rely so heavily on the homogenuity and uniformity of the users. A network can not be inclusive and exclusive at the same time, to assume that’s possible is the definition of insanity.

It’s a pity how a minor issue can inflate so much. A minor annoyance in the legalese which every average legally inept and time starved human that we all assumed Google would turn a blind eye to in order to focus on user adoption. “Use the name which people know you by”. It’s a startlingly obvious notion for social networks, if a software system is attempting to duplicate the nuanced structure of physical and digital relationships in a unified and coherent implementation, it makes sense to retain the basic handles which we rely upon. 

But rather than draw upon this logic, that sentence is followed upon by the possibly inconsistent idea to “Use your real name”. What if your “real name” isn’t what you’re known as? What if you don’t feel comfortable revealing this information? This attempt at recognizing nuance fails so blatantly at the most basic principle of consistency and blatantly disregards the considerations of a rather significant portion of web users.

Some say that this principle is good, that it filters out those who should not belong in the network anyway. That those who tend to use pseudonyms do not belong on a good faith network which depends on the cooperation and trust of every individuals. That pseudonyms are employed by criminals and those with malignant intent, and therefore all precautions must be taken to eliminate that risk.

A network has a different role in dealing with its users than a specific group does. There’s a rather interesting notion that is presented by Google’s terming of the rules as “Community Standards”: the idea that everyone who uses Google+ is a part of some sort of community. Not a loosely associated network of individuals through transparent circles, but a community as if every one had to occasionally encounter and take offense to each other.

Postel’s law, the idea that a software framework should be liberal in what it accepts and conservative in what it sends, should apply with the massive-social-network hopeful known as Google+. At the “web scale” which Google operates at, it should be clear that humans often have very few attributes in common. The slightest interpersonal misalignments turn into gaping canyons on the magnitude of billions.

Pseudonyms mean quite literally a fake name. Now, why would someone want a fake name? The simplest answer which by no means encompasses all or even most uses, is that someone has something to hide. As the evil voldemort-controlled ministry of magic in harry potter and the deathly hollows part 1 the movie leader said “You have nothing to be afraid of if you have nothing to hide”, which I found shockingly similar to Eric Schmidt’s “If you have something you dont want shared online, maybe you shouldn’t be doing it in the first place”. 

Does pseudonymity necessarily produce a culture incompatible with civilized society? I would say no, and even if the answer was yes, it doesn’t matter. The internet is a big and diverse place and it doesn’t matter if there are people who have questionable motives exist as they aren’t forcing their ideas on others. 

In Romeo and Juliet, Shakespeare (through Juliet) asks “What’s in a name?”, expressing the notion that the name is a meaningless and artificial convention which only serves to create an equally artifical and antagonistic gap between the protagonists. We can choose to subscribe to these existing and equally artificial distinctions and we should be able to choose not to. 

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14 Responses

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  1. Alex Grossman says

    Horrible that Google did this. I saw your note on Surplus when I went to use it just now. I’ve been actively posting pieces and comments supporting pseudonymous users and will continue to do so. Good luck in recovering full access.

  2. Sean says

    I support you and hope that you will be reinstated, but I’ll be honest, I’d much rather not have full psuedonyms for names, simply because to me that feels like FB. I’d like G+ to stand out, but I could support something like a nickname feature that would show to people that have you in their circles. Not sure if that is what you would like, but I’m willing to keep the ball rolling.

  3. qMax says

    What actually we can do to support your account, beside writing comments about supporting you?

  4. qMax says

    Have you tried to translate “antimatter 15″ to some sanscrit or tibetian and then transliterate to English as of kinda real exotic name?

  5. Peter says

    Hope google notices what they have done and fix your account :( we all support you

  6. Dark Star says

    There is a petition here for the pseudonym part:

    Sadly, it’s not getting much support yet – under 1000 names still.

    PS. I’m suspended for my pseudonym as well –

    I’ve been Dark Star since 2006 and I blog semi-anonymously as I have received death threats

  7. imma says

    re: “You have nothing to be afraid of if you have nothing to hide”
    Well, perhaps (nothing wrong with having something to hide), but anyway … even if there isn’t something to hide or be afraid of, there can still be something to be irritated, annoyed and perhaps even angry about.
    We aren’t free because we can prove that we have nothing to fear, we are free because we don’t have to – ‘they’ have no power over us except that which is surrendered.

    re: G+ not having pseudonyms … Google Profiles existed for a long while before G+, allowed pseudonyms and have been imported automatically, not optionally. ;-)
    I am strongly in favour of allowing people to have a separate profile name for specific circles where people might not know them by their common public-internet name (eg me)

  8. imma says

    ps: this makes me question their sincerity : (god)

  9. Huy Zing says

    Google is in the wrong. They screwed me in the days of Orkut way before you hahahh. But they rectified the situation. There’s a very good chance they’ll fix this.
    Recently, Orkut account was once again disabled for no apparent reason, so they still have a lot to learn about running a social network.
    Still, what they do is 100x better than Facebook. Zuck is yuck.

  10. Jeremy NGL says

    AM15: Pooja wants to help, she would like you to ping her on Wave.

  11. Albonobo says

    Antimatter15 all the Wwers are pushing for you;-)

  12. Rick Flynn says

    You are wise beyond your years….too bad it is all about numbers and how meaningless they can be..
    Hang i there! I’m 52 (yeah, really) and I can tell you age really doesn’t matter…
    We’ll still be here and let me know if I can help somehow.
    Cheers, Rick

  13. kybernetikos says

    What creates a bad atmosphere in social networks is not pseudonymity but lack of consequences. If someone is clearly dedicated to their pseudonymous (or otherwise) persona then they will behave at least as well (and sometimes better) than if they were going by their ‘real name’ (not that such a thing exists in law in a number of countries – you have the right to be known as whatever you like).

    So the correct answer is not to enforce ‘real names’, but to measure engagement with the network under whatever name is being used and make that transparent to the end users. Stackoverflow and reddit do the right kind of thing.

  14. tracy says

    They gave me no reason why they suspended my account and I do not know how to fix it and I did use my real name?

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